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School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment,
Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
Peer Mediation in Schools
Welcome back to school and to the seventh (!)
volume of The School Mediator. I am
delighted to be "back in the saddle."
This month we begin an exploration of the
As always, please send along your thoughts and
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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These days, I can't get enough of the new field
known as "Restorative Practices."
Restorative Practices is inspired by the values and
principles of Restorative Justice, a world-wide social
movement to institutionalize peaceful approaches to
address harm, solve problems, and uphold legal and
Simply put, Restorative Justice aspires to repair the
harm that results from crime/wrongdoing by
enabling all those affected by it--those who are
harmed, the wrongdoers, and the wider community
--to jointly develop a
This often involves bringing parties face-to-face,
sometimes even in cases involving extremely serious
crimes. People who have stolen, defaced property,
burned buildings, abused others, even murdered...
all have met with those they have harmed.
Amazingly, even though what has been done often
cannot be undone, participants report that the
process has been healing for them.
Restorative Practices in schools, or RP, is one
of the multifaceted Restorative Justice movement.
is devoted to:
1. Developing policies and practices in schools
that promote harmonious relationships and a positive
2. Restoring relationships that have been harmed
in a way that meets the needs of
those who have been hurt, holds people accountable
for misbehavior, and preserves the dignity of all
Restorative Practices includes a wide range of formal
and informal strategies to accomplish these goals,
·Community building activities
·Curricula focused on resolving conflict
and teaching social skills
·Restorative language and questions
·Mediation (including peer mediation)
·Circles (checking-in as well as
·Formal restorative conferences
The following are just a few of the reasons I find
Restorative Practices so compelling:
1. RP Understands How People Work
Restorative Practices is
grounded in ancient, aboriginal approaches to
addressing wrongdoing while also informed by the
modern fields of psychology, sociology,
education, and organizational behavior. As such, RP
displays an elegant, common sense
understanding of human nature and motivation.
2. RP Addresses Pressing Needs
Restorative Practices address one of the central
challenges of contemporary education: that
young people live in increasingly disconnected
with often far less family and community support than
they need to be their best. Educators face the
consequences of this situation in their
classrooms every day.
3. RP Provides an Overarching Framework for
With its emphasis on strengthening and
relationships, Restorative Practices provides a
theoretical framework that ties many popular
interventions together, be they curricular (e.g., Second Step, Responsive Classroom), programmatic
(peer mediation, advisor-advisee), school climate
oriented (Mix It Up, diversity events), or classroom
management oriented (circles, restorative enquiry).
4. RP Makes School Discipline More Effective
Restorative Practices include a range of highly
effective processes to address student (and adult)
have the relatively unique ability to simultaneously
hold people accountable, support those harmed by
misbehavior, develop empathy in those who
misbehave, and strengthen the school community. A
far cry from the counterproductive, "Zero Tolerance"
approach to discipline that has been in vogue here in
5. RP Provides Additional Tools
For those who currently operate peer mediation
programs, Restorative Practices provide processes to
address the conflicts that peer mediation can't
that involve a pronounced power imbalance between
parties; and those that involve serious misbehavior.
This enables schools to be more comprehensive and
consistent in their response to conflict.
Though there are regions of the United States where
more common, overall it is still very new here.
Other countries, including England, Australia and
New Zealand, have been at this work a bit longer.
to this topic in the future, as there is much more to say
Practices than I have space for in a single issue.
In the meantime, please
share your thoughts... Have you used
Restorative Practices in your school? What has been
International Institute for Restorative Practices
A wonderful resource which offers training as well as
books and videos
for purchase. IIRP is also a graduate
school (the first of its kind!) devoted to the study of
A UK-based provider of written resources and
Center for Restorative Justice
A community-engaged academic center committed to
the promotion of restorative justice practices,
principles, and values in New England, USA.
Restorative Practices in Three Scottish Councils
An interesting and recently completed final
evaluation of the progress of implementing
restorative practices in 18 Scottish schools
(elementary through high school).
Restorative Practices Workshop in November
||Richard Cohen will be presenting a dynamic
workshop, "Introduction to
Restorative Practices," on November 28th.
The workshop is sponsored by Project Alliance and
held in Lowell, Massachusetts. Cost is $25. Visit
the link below for more information.
Restorative Practices Workshop
Richard Cohen Interested in Working Abroad in 2008
||Richard Cohen is hoping to work outside the United
States for four months between July 2008 and
January 2009. If you or your organization would
benefit from having Richard's expertise close at
hand, please follow the link below.
||For twenty-three years, School Mediation Associates
has been devoted to the application and promotion of
mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform
schools into safer, more caring, and more effective
institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by
of thousands of people around the world.
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